Santa Cruz Good Times

Sunday
Sep 21st
Text size
  • Increase font size
  • Default font size
  • Decrease font size

Amusement Art

ae1At Mary Anne Kluth’s new MAH exhibit, theme parks and natural landscapes become one

Most people visit amusement parks to go on rides and munch on cotton candy—but not Mary Anne Kluth. The Oakland-based artist regularly visits theme parks in order to take digital snapshots of the simulated landscapes.

Her fascination with theme parks grew after she took a part-time job at Fairyland, a children’s amusement park in Oakland, in 2006. Soon after being hired, the park’s management recognized her artistic talent and asked her to join a small team dedicated to restoring the park.

Without a specific artistic endpoint in mind, other than documenting her findings, Kluth began taking snapshots at every theme park she visited. By 2011, she had amassed close to 1,000 snapshots, which she then used to create palettes in Photoshop. With her newly accumulated arsenal of images, she started constructing both digital and hand-cut collages that put a contemporary spin on natural landscapes.

Several of Kluth’s collages are currently on display at the Santa Cruz Museum of Art & History as part of its newest exhibition, “Journey Forth,” which also features the work of seven other world-renowned artists who juxtapose nature and modern technology. The exhibit runs through Dec. 1.

Kluth’s artistic process is both complex and fruitful, but it begins with the simple act of asking questions. “I’m interested in hyperbole in American culture,” she says. “What does anyone want from the ‘happiest place on earth’? Is the landscape there the prettiest? Why are fake places interesting?”

Throughout her travels to various theme parks, Kluth has found that they tend to offer experiences abstracting and displacing actual geographical travel, and they seek to elide many political, economic, and ideological tensions. In her artist’s statement, she explains, “The recreated wilderness—jungles, mountains, swamps and Western wastelands—compresses the visuals of a world a single day, while sparing its audiences the inconvenience and vulnerability of confronting the sublime.”

ae1-2Her resulting artwork explores the ways in which theme parks create artificial environments for people to exist in, and also simulate slices of Americana.

“What theme parks are trying to do is create the expected experience,” says Kluth. “It’s sort of instant nostalgia, because it’s (always) the same. When you go to the Matterhorn it’s always the same.” She also points out that visiting a man-made, recreated landscape, like an amusement park, is very different from visiting a place like the Sierra Nevada, where the experience is more dynamic and authentic.

When it’s time to sit down and create one of her collages, Kluth draws inspiration from the letters of botanist William Brewer, who joined the legendary Whitney geological expeditions of the old west.

 “I'd take passages from (Brewer’s) journal, and then try to find compositions from art history that related to what he was talking about,” she says. “I’d kind of split the difference between what the old paintings looked like and (Brewer’s) descriptions … I would (also) look for paintings from F.E. Church, Thomas Moran, Albert Bierstadt  …  (then) I'd go into Photoshop and put images together, using the palettes from the theme park shots.”

While the direction that each art piece is going to take is not always clear at the start, Kluth lets her natural instincts be her guide. The mystery is half the fun.

“I feel like I have ideas that I'm working through when I start a piece, (but) I don't even know where they're going to go,” says Kluth. “It's kind of like the ideas dictate what the formal quality is going to be.”

Though she’s worked in numerous mediums, she found that collage was the best way to represent the juxtaposition of nature and manmade landscapes. “It felt really appropriate,” she says. “It's part of my natural processes, (and) I feel like landscapes are related to collages because there’s so much material difference happening when you’re in a natural landscape, which is very separate from a landscape painting.”

Her artwork can be interpreted as a critique of contemporary values through the lens of a theme park, but she admits that her employment at Fairyland makes her at least partially culpable.

“The flip side of the coin is my job at Fairyland. Part of it is me constantly fixing the things that the kids break,” says Kluth, with a laugh. “(So) I'm fully part of that illusion—at least on a tiny scale.” 


Journey Forth is on display now through Dec. 1 at the Santa Cruz Museum of Art & History, 705 Front St., Santa Cruz. On Saturday, Nov. 3, artists Mary Anne Kluth and Val Britton will host an artist talk at the museum. The artist talk is free with entrance to the museum; $5/general, $3/students, seniors and kids, No cover/MAH members and under 4. For more information, visit santacruzmah.org.

Photos: Mary Anne Kluth

Comments (0)Add Comment

Write comment
smaller | bigger

busy
 

Share this on your social networks

Bookmark and Share

Share this

Bookmark and Share

 

Catwalk on the Wild Side

Meet the artists and designers behind this year’s edition of FashionART, SantaCruz’s most outrageous fashion show

 

The New Tech Nexus

Community leaders in science and technology unite to form web-based networking program

 

Watch List

From Google to the government to data brokers, why your privacy is now a thing of the past

 

The Peace Equation

Sunday is the United Nations’ International Day of Peace, a global peace-building day when nations, leaders, governments, communities and individuals are invited to end conflict, cease hostilities, creat 24 hours of non-violence and promote goodwill. Monday is Autumn equinox as the Sun enters Libra (right relations with all of life). The Soul Year now begins. We work in the dark part of the year (Persephone underground) preparing for the new light of winter solstice. Tuesday to Wednesday is the Virgo new moon festival. We know two things about peace. “The absence of war does not signify peace.” And “Peace is an ongoing process.” In its peace-building emphasis, the UNIDP, through education, attempts to create a “culture of peace, understanding and tolerance”. Esoterically we are reminded of the peace equation: “Intentions for goodwill (and acting upon this intention) create right relations with all earth’s kingdoms which create (the ongoing process of) peace on earth.” At noon on Sunday, in all time zones, millions of participating groups will observe a moment of silence for peace on earth. Bells will ring, candles will be lit, and doves released as the New Group of World Servers recite the Great Invocation (humanity’s mantram of direction). To connect with others around the world see www.cultureofpeace.org    Let us join together with the mother (Virgo). Goodwill to all, let peace prevail on earth. The dove is the symbol for the day.
Sign up for Good Times weekly newsletter
Get the latest news, events

RSS Feed Burner

 Subscribe in a reader

Latest Comments

 

Sweet Treats

Local cannabis bakers win award for cookies

 

What fashion trends do you want to see, or not see?

Santa Cruz  |  High School Guidance Counselor

 

Best of Santa Cruz County

The 2013 Santa Cruz County Readers' Poll and Critics’ Picks It’s our biggest issue of the year, and in it, your votes—more than 6,500 of them—determined the winners of The Best of Santa Cruz County Readers’ Poll. New to the long list of local restaurants, shops and other notables that captured your interest: Best Beer Selection, Best Locally Owned Business, Best Customer Service and Best Marijuana Dispensary. In the meantime, many readers were ever so chatty online about potential new categories. Some of the suggestions that stood out: Best Teen Program and Best Web Design/Designer. But what about: Dog Park, Church, Hotel, Local Farm, Therapist (I second that!) or Sports Bar—not to be confused with Bra. Our favorite suggestion: Best Act of Kindness—one reader noted Café Gratitude and the free meals it offered to the Santa Cruz Police Department in the aftermath of recent crimes. Perhaps some of these can be woven into next year’s ballot, so stay tuned. In the meantime, enjoy the following pages and take note of our Critics’ Picks, too, beginning on page 91. A big thanks for voting—and for reading—and an even bigger congratulations to all of the winners. Enjoy.  -Greg Archer, EditorBest of Santa Cruz County Readers’ Poll INDEX

 

Santa Clara Wine Trail

My memories of growing up in England include my mother pouring port after Sunday dinner—and sometimes a glass of sherry before dinner. My family didn’t drink much wine back then, but we certainly made up for it with the port and sherry.